A pilot program that allows businesses to apply for an inter-municipal business license won’t include the District of Kent or Harrison Hot Springs— for now.
Nine Fraser Valley municipalities have already hopped on board with the program, which goes into effect for 2013. They are Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Hope, both the city and township of Langley, Maple Ridge, Mission, Pitt Meadows and Surrey.
But Kent senior staff will be watching the program very closely, said Darcey Kohuch, Kent’s director of development services.
“At the end of the pilot project, we’d have the opportunity to join if we wanted,” he said.
Also called mobile business licenses, the program was first piloted in 2007 in 17 communities in the Okanagan-Similkameen. There is also a MBL program involving many Vancouver Island municipalities.
The concept is appealing to contracting-style businesses which do work in multiple communities, he said. To legally work in a municipality, a business must be licensed there. Traditionally, that means purchasing an annual license in each community that business expects to work in. Many Agassiz-based businesses have jobs in neighbouring communities such as Hope, Mission and Chilliwack.
The cost of a Fraser Valley MLB will be $250 in 2013, and will give the contractor a license for all nine participating communities.
“The reason we’re not in the pilot project is because we were not aware of it,” Kohuch said. “We didn’t get a phone call or anything in writing inviting us.”
Since learning of the pilot project, Kohuch has contacted several of the participating municipalities for further information and will be preparing a report for council to discuss in the new year.
If the program is successful, and council approves of joining, the District would then contact the ministry in charge of the program. The program has been promoted by Chambers of Commerce in other communities, and by the B.C. Chamber of Commerce, and is coordinated by the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training and Responsible for Labour.
Kohuch thinks that businesses will like the MLB, because it could work out cheaper than buying individual licenses.
The District of Kent is currently re-writing its business bylaw, but he said it wouldn’t be much to amend the bylaw in the future if Kent joins the program in the future.
“We’ll have the opportunity to participate in 2014, assuming it proceeds ahead,” he said.
The fees paid out by businesses to the municipalities is divided through a revenue sharing formula that ensures the communities don’t lose the revenue from their previous fee collection.
For example, Chilliwack receives 6.21 per cent of the revenue, Hope receives .87 per cent and Surrey receives 32.98 per cent.
The amount collected through the mobile business licensing will depend on how many businesses purchase them this year.
Harrison Hot Springs CAO Ted Tisdale said their office has also just received the information, and staff will be presenting the idea to council in the new year.
Naomi Yamamoto, minister of state for small business recently stated that the purpose of the MBL program is to streamline the paperwork for businesses.
“Reducing red tape at all levels of government is key to making it easier for business to do business in B.C.” she said in a statement. “That’s why the Mobile Business Licence is so important. It allows mobile businesses to operate in several municipalities with only one licence – so business owners can spend less time doing paperwork and more time on making their businesses a success.”